We still were able to ride our bicycles with quite the speed, even comparable to our selves 20 years ago. I shouldn't be surprised, he still jogs every morning.
"Phew, I don't remember it getting so hot this early", Oliver said while wiping some sweat off his forehead as we stopped short of the villa.
"Global warming doesn't stop anywhere, not even in this little hidden pocket of time" I replied while grinning.
"It sure seems that way in most other aspects though."
"Sure, if you ignore the Euro signs taken over from the old Lire, the town square did look comfortably similar to back then."
Back then, back back, back when the world was a simpler place. Back when I wasn't even sure what it was that I wanted. Or did I even now? I couldn't say that the years helped me crystallize an answer out of those tumultuous 6 weeks, cause with you standing in front of me, all the semblance of an answer turns to dust and leave me back to where I started.
"Come on, I'm sure Mafalda cooked up a storm again for our Muvi Star", I said while pushing my bike towards the entrance.
Mafalda truly outdid herself, having stuffed table with all the delights that made Oliver smack his lips back in the days. Sitting across from him, it brought a heartfelt smile to my face. The way he ate, short of inhaled, the pasta, the fish, the antipasti, he resembled a rescued fisherman who was caught out in the sea for some inhumane time, on the verge of starvation.
"What?", he asked from behind his sunglasses, while leaning back to assess the damage done over a cup of espresso, having caught sight of my grin.
"Nothing", I replied, sipping on my own cup.
He proceeded to stretch his limbs, tired from a long trip, a bike ride and an Italian meal fit for a king. One of his feet grazed mine, sending my nerves on overdrive. I quickly pulled mine back, for there it couldn't stay.
"Sorry, did I scratch you?", Oliver quickly said.
"No, sorry, I was just taken by surprise, that's all."
A shadow of a smile quickly disappeared from his lips. I couldn't make out his face. Even without the sunglasses, I never could. Not out in the open. Never outside.
"Shall we see if Manfredi brought your stuff up already?"
Opening the door to my old bedroom for him felt like the oddest Deja Vu. This is my window, overlooking the garden. This is my desk, where I spent years transcribing, first music, then emotions I felt pent up inside me, with words which had no more place to go, lost in the air, waiting to be jotted down on paper and then discarded. My wardrobe, which still holds my most prized possession, a reminder that I didn't just conjure you out of my dreams, willing you to appear on that summer day, out of the taxi.
"So, that's my old room." I say, as if he didn't know every corner of it already.
"Wow, it's like nothing has changed."
Everything was the same. Except for everything having changed. The walls, more sunbleached with each summer. The posters, an ever changing collection of different moods and fancies. You, with your parallel life, the golden family. Me, who I thought would be as different as the rest of the room, but somehow still stuck in the same spot, looking out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of You in your ghost spots, while you are right in the same room with me, within an arm's reach. It was bewildering.
Oliver sat down by the edge of the bed.
"Wanna take a nap?", I said while turning around, "it's been a jam packed day so far for you", making my way out.
The tone caught me dead in my tracks. I never heard him like that before.
He still had his back turned towards me, looking out the window into the blue sky, as I approached the bed.
"What are we?", he all but whispered.
I sat down on the other side of the bed, looking at the door. I didn't know if I could face him either. Of all the possibilities I have gone through in my head, I was not prepared for this question. I never was.
We were everything in those blissful weeks, during our lazy days lying by the pool in 'Heaven', during those sweaty nights tattooing each other's skin with our body fluids. What are we now, after everything is not an option anymore, has been taken off the table so easily.
"I don't know Oliver. I really don't", was all I could say with a sigh.
"It's over. My marriage is over. Our divorce was finalized in spring."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I hope your kids are taking it well."
His kids. His family. It all came crashing down. Was I to blame? Did I cause a rift? I probably shouldn't have visited him 5 years ago.
"It wasn't your fault Elio".
The mind reader again. I could hear him turning towards me.
"I was at another fork in my life, making a choice on how to continue on."
"But I can't be your choice again Oliver. It took me so many years just to come to a plausible conclusion on why we met, why we came to be and why we had to part for good. You don't get to come here and take all that away from me again, just like you took everything away from me back then.", I said, while I could feel the emotions rise up inside me, raising my legs to curl up.
"I never wanted to take anything away from you. I gave you all I could give, but I wasn't able to give you what you deserved."
"What I deserved? What I deserved was truth, was closure-" I all but yelled .
"You deserved everything, all the things I was not able to give you!"
"But all I needed were the things that mattered. You, who mattered."
You, who kept on filling my dreams, late at night. You, who towered over every subsequent lover, in permanent comparison, at your pinnacle. You, who were the best person I've ever known, picked and chosen by the Gods to appear by my side, give me a glimpse of what it feels like to be whole, only to have them take you away from me in a cruel game to keep them entertained. You, who has shown me kindness in more ways than the wind knows directions. Have you not always known?
"How was I supposed to find someone who could surpass you?", I choked out, while holding back tears.
It was the same tone as before, stricken with his own pain, accumulated over the last 20 years. I had to look back.
And there it was. Written all over his face, after the masks fell off. All his hopes, dreams, wishes, desires. Cor Cordium, his heart of hearts. It was more truth than I could bear. As the tears started to roll, I collapsed onto the bed, shaking with sobs.
I could feel him put his arm on me, trying to calm him. "I'm sorry Elio, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,....." as I cried every tear I've denied over the last 20 years, denied their existence since their reason to be was gone, taken to another life far away from my own. A distance I wasn't able to bridge on my own, no matter if we lived on different continents or just a few hours drive away. I thought him gone, confined to his ghost spots. As I fell asleep from the sheer exhaustion, I could still hear his soothing 'Sorry'.